Lake Tahoe: Escape To The Sky

Posted December 4, 2020 – Narrated by Carmen
To listen to the podcast, click the play button

“The air up there in the clouds is very pure and fine, bracing and delicious. And why shouldn’t it be?—it is the same the angels breathe.”

    Mark Twain
         writing about Lake Bigler, now known as Lake Tahoe, in Roughing It

Fire season is always an adventure. But even with the risks, late summer to mid-December is our preferred time on the Pacific coast.

Two years ago we were held up by the Carr Fire in Redding. This year it was the LNU Lightening Complex Fires. Passing through Sparks Nevada on the 80, we saw flames lapping up a Sierra mountainside.

The smoke cleared a bit as we climbed the 89 toward Truckee, but the traffic thickened.

Summer traffic is always heavy in Tahoe but on this August day it was insane. We had expected lower tourism impact due to the pandemic, but evacuees escaping wildfires were arriving from the valley. Tahoe was overflowing with refugees camped any way they could in any available parking space.

Campgrounds which had closed for the season reopened to accommodate needs. Shoulder season – late August to early September, before the first snow – is usually the perfect time to be here to avoid crowds, but with so many families homeschooling on the road in RV’s, Truckee was bulging at the seams.

Inching through Truckee, we watched as thick feathery boas of smoke snaked over the piney shoulders of the urban forest. If the wind shifted and the basin caught fire it would result in mayhem.

Flash Back

We both flashed back to 2016 when we were in a similar situation in Gatlinburg Tennessee. About an hour before that horrible fire erupted into tragedy, our instincts told us to skedaddle. I spotted a forestry road marked “no entry.” The GPS showed the unpaved lane lead down the mountain away from the business district. Somehow, Jim managed to wedge us out of gridlocked traffic and we took that escape route.

Truckee traffic jams are entertaining – paddlers on the river, leathered bikers with braided beards, and cyclists in candy colored European spandex.

So, we relaxed into the moment and studied fire reports which yielded little to no info about the current situation other than the obvious: “extreme” and “historic.” No wonder everyone was heading up here even though the lake views, obscured by the hellish smoke, lacked the usual “come hither” look.

This was not a tourism event, yet business was open. We were thrilled that restaurants, gas stations and breweries continued to provide services.

The only option was to wait it out. With premature snowstorms in Colorado and Nevada, and severe fires in Oregon and Los Angeles, Lake Tahoe would, for the moment, be our one-day-at-a-time home base until it was safe to head south.

Sparkles of the old Beaubeaux luck began to rise and break to the surface … Stranded in Lake Tahoe … Nice

William Kent Campground

As we checked into the William Kent National Forest Campground, Jim congratulated himself for reserving this space eight days in advance. But as we slipped Beauty snugly into the site, our last tiny Verizon bar took leave of us.

So before the tires could cool, we checked the Red Cross Radio, prepared go-bags and inflated the kayaks.

If all other evacuation efforts failed, we could head downstream on the Truckee River or simply paddle to the center of the lake and hope for rescue.

But, the story ends well. The apocalypse abated and from thereon, the smoke slowly began to clear, and we happily set out to discover the William Kent campground and the small but sublime William Kent Beach.

We didn’t care that our first night’s tiny no hook-up dry camping site was entirely wrong for our Airstream, or that the asphalt site pad was so narrow that we barely fit side-to-side or that, once leveled, the threshold of our door, positioned over a steep crumbling slope, was almost chest level.

If Jim occasionally belted out a Tarzan yodel upon entry and exit, it wasn’t much of an exaggeration, we were seriously up in the trees. Fortunately, a Jeffrey Pine which barely cleared our opened door served to break our momentum as we often fell sprawling out the door toward the slope. So yeah, our site was far from ideal, but so what? It was only a five-minute stroll downhill to THE BEACH!

Let the Tahoe vacation begin!

Luck struck again, when we switched to a better campsite for the remaining eleven nights.

William Kent Campground
William Kent Campground offers NO hookups (no electricity, water or sewer at the site) but there is a dump station with fresh potable water to refill tanks or jerry cans and plenty of restaurants and stores within walking distance.
William Kent Campground
It’s important to study the map before making a reservation at William Kent. Sites and pads vary widely in size. Most of the sites are better for tent or van camping because backing-in puts the door on the wrong side, facing the private area of the adjoining camp site. But this, too, was only a small inconvenience since we weren’t home much.

The summer of 2020 led us to some exquisite recreational lakes which we hope to visit again someday, but none can compete with Lake Tahoe. The view always takes our breath away.

“…the Lake burst upon us—a noble sheet of blue water lifted six thousand three hundred feet above the level of the sea and walled in by a rim of snow-clad mountain peaks that towered aloft three thousand feet higher still!”

      – Mark Twain


The drama queen of glacier lakes. Caught up in a love-on-the-rocks relationship with California and Nevada, this 72-mile long lake has a story to tell about her birth, her adventures, her hot fling with Mark Twain, her dry spells and glory days, her triangulated marriage, the ensuing scandals and her off-and-on Olympics career.

No wonder she’s in therapy. Hopefully, she will achieve full clarity and all will benefit as her partners cooperate in good faith during these disastrous environmental times.

I mean, look at this water … the range of blues … gold, to turquoise, then cobalt and electric blue.

Someday – when the air quality is better – I hope to circumnavigate the lake – paddling the 72-mile shoreline on my kayak.

As usual, we didn’t plan enough time to experience the cities, and gawk at the private enclaves, or search for the hidden shorelines.

What we missed …

We missed the waterfalls, and rafting the Truckee. We didn’t cycle the Truckee either, or spelunk the old railroad tunnels. Even worse, we failed to hike Fallen Leaf Lake and Galena Creek, and Monkey Rock, and Balancing Rock at the D. L. Bliss State Park. Neither did we explore the Spooner Backcountry, take Pico for a run on Kiva Beach, or paddle the West Shore near Bonsai Rock, snorkel Zephyr Cove, paddle to Fannette Island on Emerald Bay to visit the Tea House and lift a cup to Captain Dick, or watch the cliff jumpers at Angora Lake, and toast every spectacular day at a different craft brewery.

Someday – if the angels allow – we’ll dedicate six to eight weeks nurturing our Tahoe Bucket List.

But in this motherlode of natural beauty – a place that seems to know all of our chill buttons – it would be sacrilege to stress over what we didn’t see and where we couldn’t go because of the pandemic, fires, health (Jim was still in “the boot”), and time constraints. Just being here was a blessing. So we simply surrendered to our tiny spot on the tranquil blue bosom of The Basin and buried our faces into the alpine-Caribbean pulsar of peace that is Lake Tahoe.

And it was good … except for the smoke.

Mark Twain praised the Tahoe air as fit for angels – and I could believe it if the angels were two pack-a-day smokers …

… If, in the last few years, I followed the advice to stay inside to avoid dangerous particulates I might as well live in a bunker …

… and, the way things are going, Living in Bunker could be our future …

… These were my thoughts as I paddled by ten million dollar homes which probably include bunkers.

The air never fully cleared, but every day a few more people came out to play…

…expressing the Tahoe-state-of-mind, each in their own way.

Our micro-Tahoe resort was a wonder. We happily nested there and imagined what it would be like to live on the lake for at least part of the year.


Mornings began at Fire Sign Cafe, a pleasant five-minute walk from our campsite. We were so grateful for the wifi. Fortunately, the food was top-notch and the management exercised sufficient social-distancing measures in the beautiful outdoor seating. There, we indulged in our one big meal of the day.

Spoon Restaurant, just steps from Fireside, is on a rapid and well-deserved rise to being widely recognized as one of the finest restaurants on the lake. They too, offered outdoor dining under the trees.

The food was spectacular!

Coronado friends and family will appreciate that Spoon is owned by Zhee-Zhee, the daughter of Jaime – a musician and local treasure who played at the Coronado Concerts in the Park, and served as Master Of Ceremonies for over a decade … It was good to be back in California, the biggest small town in America.

There are hundreds of campgrounds on Lake Tahoe and we hope to try more of them, but we are now enthused converts of William Kent and not just because it gave us sanctuary in our moment of need. William Kent is a cozy home base where the best of Tahoe can be easily accessed on footpaths and bicycles.

Thank you To Our Hosts

During this season of gratitude, we would like to express our thanks to the lovely staff of volunteer camp hosts at William Kent who helped to make our stay as pleasant and hassle-free as possible. Thousands of camp hosts all over North America make recreational and full-time travel possible for a growing number of retirees, seasonal workers and remote workers. And, as RV travel increases during the pandemic, so does their work load.

Camp hosts are the nomads of nomads. We respect them so much for their service and wish all a wonderful holiday season.

Next: Vinnie’s Northbay Airstream Repair for fixes and upgrades.

Where does the time go?! You can see we are behind. Living in Beauty during COVID-19 pandemic conditions is simply more time consuming. Like you, we are spending more time cleaning, preparing meals, zooming with our friends and family, and finding safe places to exercise. Thank you for your patience as we catch up on the LIB journal this winter.

If you want to see our exact route, click here.

*photos in this post (unless otherwise noted) were taken and copyrighted by Living In Beauty.

32 thoughts on “Lake Tahoe: Escape To The Sky

  1. That Million Dolla’ Slice looks amazing! As does the rest of the food at Spoon. Would of loved to see pics of your first site set up. 🙂

  2. Hey Brenda! Oh yeah … Zhee-Zhee and J.C. know what they’re doing. If you go up there, treat yourself … for sure. Hopefully, Spoon will reopen up in December. It grieves us how restaurants are struggling through this pandemic.

    I was certain that I had a photo of that site, but no … I probably deleted it accidentally. Keeping up the photo file is a growing problem! I think I created a monster!!!

    Safe and Happy Travels!


  3. We appreciate the diligence you put into this. The pictures as always, align with the story. We hope you stay safe.

    1. Hey John,

      Thank you for the good wishes for safety and your kind words about the blog – a project that keeps us connected, busy and happy. Yes, it seems that staying safe from the virus is an ongoing challenge with varying states of difficulty and obstacles – but we must persevere.

      Safe and Happy Travels!


  4. You write so beautifully! This was a particularly enjoyable post (but I think that every time I read one of your posts).

    1. Hey Carmella!

      Careful now – you might boost my confidence.

      Oh well, too late.

      Thank you!

      Safe and Happy Travels!


  5. This wonderful description – despite the smoke- brought back the memories of our 2019 trip to Lake Tahoe.

    1. Hey Claudia. So good to hear from you.

      Tahoe is a difficult place to leave behind. If it didn’t snow for most of the year, we’d be looking for a house yesterday.

      Did you see the link to the airplane flight? It was filmed in June 2019. Maybe you were down there …?

      Thank you for being with us, Claudia.

      Safe and Happy Travels!


      1. Oh, you are going to settle down? I‘ll have a look at the video, we have been at Tahoe in July 19. stayed at sugar pine state park, some of your pictures looked like ours.

        1. Hey Claudia,

          Indeed, we visited Sugar Pine and checked out the State Park campground. It is less of an urban camping experience than William Kent – but the campground was equivalent. Also, the grounds across the highway at Sugar Pine were so lovely and hiking and cycling paths were better, views of the lake were spectacular and, yes, a prettier beach. We might stay at Sugar Pine next time. The convenience of camping at William Kent was just what we needed after dry-camping in the Nevada wilderness for weeks. We loved walking to breakfast at Fire Sign and little grocery store just steps from our campsite.

          No, we are not looking to stop traveling. We’ve seen enough to know that we will not be satisfied in any one place. We were just fantasizing about Tahoe … but we don’t do snow. Tahoe is for those who love the snow and being snowed in for long periods, and for those who have another house or travel plan to escape for six months or more of the year. At least for right now, we are not looking seriously. I love the desert. Jim loves the beach. So LIB is the plan.

          – Carmen

  6. Loved it there till our RV was rocked by a black bear. Black bear came back the next day and was spotted outside our rented cabin. Explains why this huge nice 4 story cabin had no patio furniture outside and had strict house rules with trash disposal. USE the bear boxes!! lol

    1. Hey Lauren,

      Oh yeah! I forgot to mention the bears. We never saw one, but there was campground talks of a sow and two cubs. I don’t know why, but we seldom we see bears anymore. The last bear I saw was in Alberta.

      Nevertheless, we never leave Pico alone in the trailer when we are in bear country. We probably carry more food onboard than most RVers and it would be terrifying for him to experience the panic of a bear pounding on the trailer. Strict trash rules by all means!

      Thanks for the story, Lauren.

      Safe and Happy Travels,


    1. Hey Mike! Yes, it is beautiful. I failed also to mention the birds – many species there. A great place for bird watching.

      Safe and Happy Travels!


  7. I’m glad to see a couple of Pico’s toys made it to the pile for the “go” bag! LOL. We experienced lots of wildfire smoke on our way to Oregon in September. Scary stuff trying to travel and worry about dodging fires. All the lost timber and forest, such a tragedy. We managed to purchase a small air purifier when we got to Troutdale that helped with the air in our trailer. Sue and I went to Tahoe in 1992. Her family was having a reunion in Grants Pass, Oregon. We flew out to San Francisco with our 2 year old son and our camping gear in four large duffel bags. We didn’t camp at Tahoe, but stayed with her parents. They had a timeshare condo there. What a lovely area. We rode a paddle wheeler boat around the lake. Spectacular! I do so enjoy your blog and all the pictures of your travels. Thanks for posting!

    1. Hey Peggy!

      I would love to see Tahoe in the winter … from a cozy fireside chair overlooking the lake while my feet soak in The Bahamas.

      Thank you for being with us!


  8. Steve and Sue! Wonderful to hear from you two and to know you are safe. We’ve had several deeply saddening losses this year – close friends and family – so hearing good news from good friends is always a happy thing.

    Please let us know more about your air purifier and your experience with it. We are looking for one.

    The boat you rode around the lake is still in commission, I think. But I don’t know if that concession was open.

    For anyone touring the west coast, Tahoe should be high on the list. It isn’t for everyone (the crowds) but out on that water in any kind of boat is where the magic happens.

    Fighty Puppy and Ratty-Rat-Rat are precious LIB cargo. He has a plush girlfriend, too (Lovey Puppy) and it will be tough to leave her behind but she’s too large for the Go-Bag. In emergencies sacrifices must be made … Keeping our fingers crossed that we will never need those straws.

    Best to you both. Be safe out there.


    1. The air purifier is the AVARI 600 Electrostatic Air Purifier. We actually got a smaller one (the 525), but we’d recommend this model for your trailer. It is better than a Hepa because it also removes VOCs. We had to get the smaller one because during the fires it was the only one we could get shipped to us. We would have gotten the 600 model if we could have. It seemed to do a good job and is easy to clean with a vacuum.

      1. Thanks for this info, Steve. With all the dough we are saving on eating out, we’ve decided to do some upgrades. This might be the ticket – not just for fire season, but also for nights when campfire smoke from the neighbors is choking us out.

        Safe and Happy Travels!


  9. We have lived on both sides. 8 years in Washoe Valley. We often cruised from our home up the Mt Rose highway over and down to Incline Village then decided to circle the lake clockwise or counter. Now we live down the hill off Hwy 50. It is a little longer ride over the pass and down to our favorite weekend get away campground on the west shore.

    1. Hey Neil!

      You are both wise and fortunate to be able to live in what we think is the most beautiful area of the West. I’m sure you never run out of exciting places to go and things to do.

      Thank you for sharing.

      Safe and Happy Travels!


  10. We love Tahoe too, skied there many years ago, and met George Burns when he sat next to me at the Blackjack Table, he was performing with Bernadette Peters.

    1. Hey Jack! Where are you two? I guess I need to check Facebook. I’m having a bad case of Facebook PTSD right now … too much sad news lately.

      Wow! Great story! I didn’t know that George Burns and Bernadette Peters were an act. I’ll bet is was great.

      Speaking of betting … I forgot to mention that there are casinos on Lake Tahoe. Five years ago we had a great lobster dinner in one of them – forgot which one. The food was great and the price was amazing – almost free.

      There is a county campground in South Lake Tahoe near the casino area on the Nevada side. The cost is in the $30 range and it has electrical hook-ups for an extra fee. The bath houses were so outdated we considered them to be health hazards, but there is a wonderful public pool facility on the grounds with showers which can be used for an entry fee – also a library with screaming WiFi – a precious commodity around Lake Tahoe. Many restaurants nearby and a spectacular large beach area within walking distance across the highway.

      Tahoe may be the best urban camping in America.

      Be safe out there!

      Love you two!

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      Jim and Carmen

      1. We’re hunkered down in AZ, I had a knee replacement in Feb then strained my hamstring on that leg a few weeks later. That has slowed my recovery a bit. Hope both of you are doing well.

  11. Don’t you just hate the places you have to leave behind. Wait! I think I said that wrong but you know what I mean. For me, it’s the Florida Keys. I’m sure now that we’re adding Lake Tahoe to the “Bucket List,” that too will be a place I hate to leave behind. Thank you for sharing the details of your journey with us. We thoroughly enjoy each and every adventure. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

  12. Hey Kathy and Steve! Wonderful to hear from you!

    Thank you, and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you two as well.

    What is the weather like in The Keys right now? I see it’s in the low 60’s but is it windy?

    We must consult with you if we are ever go to the Florida Keys again. We did several things wrong last time or just had bad luck with more than a week of freezing weather when we entered in early December after the storm with hurricane clean-up only partially completed. We also placed ourselves too far away from services which were understaffed – and then, to beat all, our refrigerator broke down and had to be replaced. Oh, we had a nice enough time, but we were only sad to leave because we felt that we really did not take in the full experience. I think there must be a great deal of know-how to the art of camping in the Florida Keys. So far we have had better luck in The Lost Coast.

    But … once again, we have entered the deep south with hurricane clean-up still in mid-progress and having a very cold and windy week BUT enjoying the fabulous cell signals and the pool which is empty because the heater is still broken. I’ve been happily swimming in a new modern pool in 62 degree water because at least I have it all to myself … but I may need to buy myself a spring wet suit this week.

    Snow-birding can be challenging.

    Safe and Happy Travels!


  13. Lake Tahoe looks incredible! We were hoping to check it out ourselves this year, but got screwed up by the fires. I’m glad things worked out for you guys while there. It was certainly a scary time to be anywhere in the region. Of course, now, I have an image in my head of a bunch of angels sitting around smoking two packs a day. Ha!

    The houses on that lake are perfect. I could sit in front of those giant windows all day every day and just stare at the crystal clear water. However, I like your (and my) lifestyle better – see it at its best and then run away before the snow starts falling. 🙂

    Also, thanks for the tip about Spoon. I know where we’re gonna eat whenever we make it to beautiful Lake Tahoe!


    1. Hey Laura!

      Yes, we, increasingly, find our selves pleased with our current housing situation. For us, living mobile is a solution for so many things – boredom is probably highest on the list, but climate change is also way up there.

      We hope you are enjoying your winter-holiday digs on the west coast. The desert is a great way to experience the area during lock-down.

      Safe and Happy Travels!


  14. All those meals look scrumptious! What a lovely place you found by Lake Tahoe. Every time I read your blogs and see your photos, I want to go there and do that and spend money on a real campground and take a break from life and relax by the lake (in summer) or treat myself to a wonderful meal. One day!

    During Covid we’ve only done a few take-out meals, though. It seems like businesses were careful in Nevada/California but… so many people all together on the beach… Does your pup ride in the kayaks with you? We all seem to be behind with chores and blog posts! 🙂

    1. Hey Lisbet, so sorry it took so long for this reply. Yes. The oversight of blogging (which we love) and seeing to a multitude of camping details (which we love) … and avoiding infection (a woeful drag on our busy lifestyle) is creating a backlog.

      We love both eating out and cooking at home – but when the choice is easy, we prefer to eat out. It’s fun to discover great places like Fire Sign and Spoon. But since COVID-19 the quality of most restaurants has plummeted so we’ve mostly given up on eating out.

      Our goal is to stay at good campgrounds whether they are free, almost free or whatever – and that takes a lot of research – so thank you for keeping up with ROAMING ABOUT – your expense report should be valuable information for many LIB followers.

      We never started out planning to save $ but as our faith in the economy circles the drain, we are ever-vigilant and can easily see how knowing “the way” to live a life of low dependency on money is probably – is some degree or another – in everyones interest if not our future.

      Are you still in Bisbee? Your campsite is precisely at Big Fur Public Use Area in Arkansas is our cup of tea and we’re looking forward to checking it out someday. Thank you for sharing.

      About Pico and the kayak. He used to love to kayak with us. But two years ago when he with us in the Florida Keys near Curry Hammock, he saw something large in the water – a creature – we are still not sure if it was a dolphin, shark or stingray. Anyway, he panicked and has decided he is never to join us again in the water. In fact, whenever we prepare the boats he refuses to look at them! He is a very brave dog and will face down anything … unless it’s in the water.

      Thank you so much for being with us, Lisbet. We must meet up in one of your excellent FREE campgrounds one day and share a pitcher or margaritas and some home cooking.



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